Social media’s influence on health is always developing and with different levels of intensity (1). Social media is susceptible to mis-understandings, and false information just like communicating peer-to-peer does (1). However, social media is an intercultural, online communication platform that, unlike peer-to-peer communication, has the intensity of spreading vast amounts of impacting information to significant number of people, at an exponential speed (1). This shouldn’t lessen the influence of significance of peer-to-peer relationships and the role it plays in improving social support and decreasing depression or social anxiety (1).The was identity navigates through communication partners is facing theoretical adjustments through the usage of social media (1).
The communication accommodation theory (Giles, Coupland & Coupland, 1991) can help draw parallels between the formation of boundaries between self and different groups based on interpersonal factors and Facebook and Whatsapp groups, Instagram pages and Snapchat relationships (1). “People and societies’ group identification ebbed and flowed through place-based communities, ethnicities and nation-states”(1). Through the industrialization and commodification of affinity groups defined as by de Toqueville (1835) as ‘flourishing in the United States in the early 19th century’ cultivated into several associations organized and concentrated around like-minded interests (1). These associations consisted of advocacy groups, fan groups and archivists which were mostly formed relationships through one-way transmittals of communication via print media, email and face-to-face correspondence (1).
Social media allows conversations that once were held among small groups, to now be held continuously and among entire affinity communities (1). This allows people to be immersed in their communities, drawing them in more intensely and actively, and shielding them from countervailing opinions (1). Social media is also transforming how newly formed communities re-shape important health issues such as provider utilization and referrals, alternative treatments and therapies, nutrition patterns and exercise behaviors (1). Social media is a community builder, allowing access to people, association and groups from all over the world to create media and archive it, allowing for nonprofessional archivists and activists to democratize cultural memory, and to mobilize political action (1). In terms of health impact, social media holds both promise and reason for concern since it has constructed communities shaped around health information, advocacy and these experiences (1).
Social media communities reveal information that can be used in clinical outcomes, public health and political advocacy, such as the differences found between communities organically formed and those intentionally created for a specific goal or intervention (1). Social media has also made it much easier for people to re-form their own cultural identities away from their own nuclear family, proximate friend groups and placed-based community and toward virtual communities unbounded by place or time zone (1). Social capital, defined as norms of reciprocity or social support, is made up of social networks and social trust (1). Social networks are the basis for social capital, with the behavior of participation in the network, while the norms and trust characterize it (1).
A characteristic that defines someone’s social capital is the type and strength of their ties to other individuals (including bonding, bridging, and linking, ties with people of similar or different social characteristics, and linking ties are ties with colleagues in differing levels of hierarchies) (1). The different types of support all contribute to the strength of social capital for each individual within a community (1). Online identities can nurture positive relationships and increase psychosocial wellbeing (1). However, there is also evidence to show that increased online involvement may serve to isolate individuals from the support they may be able to find in their geographical location (1).
1. Cooper, S., & Palmedo, C. (n.d.). Social Media as a Transformative Force in Intercultural Health Communications: A Case Study of The Badass Army. Social Media as a Transformative Force in Intercultural Health Communications: A Case Study of The BADASS Army. Retrieved from https://bbhosted.cuny.edu/webapps/blackboard/execute/content/file?cmd=view&content_id=_43186947_1&course_id=_1762708_1&launch_in_new=true